A Mom’s Real-Life Guide To Health And Safety


An E-Mail Forward Will Save Your Life

My mom is a fan of sending along e-mail forwards with dubious cautionary advice that Snopes — and anyone with more than one functioning brain cell — has already debunked. For instance: Did you know if you put your ATM password in backwards it alerts the police that you’re being robbed? Did you know that sugar causes cancer? Did you know that dialing *677 tells you if the unmarked police car trying to pull you over is actually a rapist?

You didn’t? That’s because none of these are true. But they have been forwarded to me by my mother as if they contain life-saving advice.

Other scary emails instructed me to never get out of my car to get a paper from the windshield because a car-jacker is waiting to get inside and that hotel room keys can steal your credit card information. Also, this isn’t advice but did you know George W. Bush makes the same face as a monkey sometimes? That was from a chain letter, too.


All Serial Killers are Pizza Delivery Men or Ice Cream Truck Drivers

When I was in second grade, an ice cream truck started a new route down my street. Every day, I would hear the jovial music begin as every kid would stream out and line up to purchase ice cream. Every kid except me. My mom was convinced that “ice cream truck driver” was the perfect undercover job for a pedophile kidnapper.

Her other reasoning? Quote: “Gabrielle, you were just a little kid. How were you gonna know the difference between a regular ice cream truck and a pedophile in his car offering you ice cream?”

That’s right, guys. My mom thought I wouldn’t notice that one was a big, white musical ice cream truck and one was a guy holding a popsicle next to a grungy El Camino.

Similarly, I was never allowed to open the door for a pizza delivery man. Instead, I had to slip the money through the mail slot and tell him to leave the pizza on the welcome mat. Then, my mom told me to watch through the front window to make sure the delivery van pulled away before I opened the door to retrieve the pizza. I did this well into my teens. It was like a reverse Silence of the Lambs every time we got Papa Johns.

Never Trust a Boy with Dirty Fingernails

This is the one piece of dating advice I can remember my mom giving me. Her logic was that a boy who couldn’t be bothered to clean his fingernails, didn’t care about the details and would therefore make a terrible boyfriend.

If he shows the initiative to clean his fingernails then this boy is probably ambitious, hard-working and conscientious. He has goals, he cares about how he presents himself and he probably calls his mother once in a while.

That’s some flawed logic, Mom. You know who else probably cleaned his fingernails compulsively? Patrick Bateman. Sure, he had ambition. But it was murder ambition.

No Wire Hangers

In no way is my mom comparable to Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest but they did share one non-negotiable tip: No wire hangers.

“They’ll put ridges in your clothes,” she says. Right. On the shoulders. Shoulders are the body’s natural ridges. Last I checked, clothes change shape when you put a person in them.

Never Keep Your Money in Your Backpack or Purse

This is because a pick pocket could easily steal money from your backpack or your purse without your feeling it. You know, if you had the nerve endings of a frozen pizza and the thief had the stealth of Fagin or Aladdin.

According to my mom, it’s much safer to keep your money in your front pocket, a fanny pack or better yet, in a pouch inside your underwear. Yes, she actually suggested an underwear pouch.

Doing any of those things will surely prevent anyone from ever reaching into your underwear ever again.

Don’t Go to Sleep with a Wet Head

“It’s the quickest way to catch the flu and die,” she says, despite raising her kids in the humidity cloud that is South Florida. That’s some 18th century medical advice. If I did get the flu from wet hair, would we cure it with leeches?

A Piece of Paper in Your Shoe is Good Luck

Any time I had an exam at school, my mom would tell me to put a small piece of paper in my shoe. The superstition is that the piece of paper would help me remember what I’d studied.

There’s no secret Mom logic behind this one. It’s a trick my grandmother believed in and passed on to my mom, who passed it on to me. Somewhere along the way, I think they lost a step: maybe the step where I write the answers to the test on the paper first.

In Case of the Apocalypse, Rent a Helicopter

This is by far the most outlandish bit of safety advice my mother ever gave me. About a year ago, she called me and my sister to tell us she wanted to book us plane tickets home for December 21, 2012 because she’d heard on TV that this was the date of the end of the world. She wanted us both, and I quote, “home for the apocalypse.”

The plan she’d devised was to rent a helicopter way in advance and fly around until the flood waters have subsided. Then, we’d float inside the helicopter until we found land or other refugees. I am not sure why she was convinced a helicopter would float. Until we were rescued, my whole family would just stick together in the cramped space.

I told her I’d rather just go out with the fiery asteroids. Thanks.

If You Get Kidnapped, Kick Out a Tail Light

When I was in elementary school, we lived in the same city where Adam Walsh, six-year-old son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh, was kidnapped from a local mall. After that, my mom was convinced every stranger we saw was planning on walking off with me the minute she turned her head.

When I was three, she taught me how to sing my full name, address and telephone number so that I could tell the police where I lived. (I still remember the made-up song.) She brought me down to the police station to give them fingerprints and a cheek swab, just in case, and we made a home video of me stating my height and age in case one needed to be given to local TV stations. Even though, according to her logic, I wouldn’t know the difference between a police officer and a guy in a sailor hat holding a popsicle.

Then, when I was about seven, my mom put me in the open trunk of my dad’s car and taught me where to kick so the tail light would burst if I were ever abducted. Then, I could stick my hand through the hole and wave to passing cars to alert them that a kidnapped child was inside.

She’d heard about the technique in an e-mail forward.

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image – Kevin Dooley